Courtesy of John Roach of NBC News come a profile of Catherine Wong, a 17-year-old student who has invented a portable electrocardiogram application that can deliver heart exam results to doctors over wireless networks. Below is video of Wong explaining the tech:
The FCC’s 706 report discounts the significant efforts being made by the private sector — despite uncertainty for investment stemming from a persistently weak economy and repeated attempts by the Commission to exercise greater direction and control over this inherently unpredictable yet consistently innovative sector — to continue building out broadband infrastructure, particularly next-generation wireless networks, to connect all Americans. Last year, wireless service providers invested nearly $26 billion in the creation and maintenance of the mobile infrastructure that puts better health care, education and job opportunities in reach for consumers. Of course there is more work to do.
Contrary to the FCC’s assertions, more government control over the telecommunications industry with new rules is absolutely not a prerequisite for closing the digital divide — in fact, fixed regulations are inherently inimical to the competitive, innovative, rapidly-changing reality of modern telecommunications. Instead, the FCC and policy makers need to adopt a more flexible approach that is humble in scope and recognizes the fast-paced, innovative environment in which industry operates.
Most new regulatory initiatives of the past five years have hindered innovation and high-tech leadership, whereas deregulatory efforts have helped them. Minimal government intervention will support the Internet’s continued, consumer-driven growth and bring us closer to reaching President Obama’s goal of 4G wireless coverage for 98 percent of the population by 2015.
Yesterday, we highlighted a cool new mobile app aimed at helping the visually impaired. Today, Erica Ogg of GigaOm writes about an update to an existing app that could greatly benefit children:
A communication assistance app for those who have difficulty speaking is getting an important update Wednesday: It now has real children’s voices that will play when a picture, phrase or word is tapped on screen. Proloquo2go, an iOS app has been used for several years by both adults and children diagnosed with autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s Syndrome, as well as adult stroke victims or anyone who’s lost the ability to speak clearly. But after a huge effort in improving text-to-speech, children’s voices are now an option.
Natasha Baker of Reuters reports on a new mobile app that can greatly benefit the vision impaired:
Called Georgie, the app for Android devices enables people with little or no sight to accomplish daily activities that could be difficult for them.
Here’s how the app works:
Users navigate the app’s features by passing their fingers over various options which are read aloud. Lingering on a particular option produces a beep, indicating that the option has been selected.
The app can make calls or send texts but it also provides location-based technologies, which can let users know, for example, when the next bus is coming, which direction they’re facing, or the ability to set location-based reminders.
At Talking Points Memo, Carl Franzen reports on a new effort from YouTube to protect protesters from hardline governments:
Many video subjects have become recognizable viral video sensations thanks to YouTube. But YouTube itself wants to allow some video subjets the ability to remain anonymous, too, if they choose: On Wednesday, the Google-owned online video hub launched a new “face blurring” video editing tool specifically for this purpose.
The tool allows video creators to upload their footage as before, but now they have the option, with the click of a button, to have YouTube’s software automatically detect and blur all of the human faces in their video files.
The tool is currently being refined, but given how much YouTube — and all social media — has been used in protests around the world, it could turn out to be a very big thing.
This morning, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai delivered a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The focus of the speech was the best ways for the Commission to foster investment and innovation as it moves forward, an important subject not just for technological advancement but for job creation and the overall health of America’s economy.
Pai started out the speech with a bit of gloom:
One beacon of economic hope should be the information and communications technology (or ICT) sector. Unfortunately, recent numbers paint a dreary picture. According to figures released by the Labor Department less than two weeks ago, there are now fewer jobs in the information sector of our economy than at any point since November 1989.
Pai called this state of affairs “unacceptable,” and recommended action on the Commission’s end to help turn the trend around:
[T]he FCC must act with the same alacrity as the industry we oversee. That’s not to say we should rush to regulate, but delays at the Commission have substantial real-world consequences: new technologies remain on the shelves; capital lies fallow; and entrepreneurs stop hiring or, even worse, reduce their workforce as they way for regulatory uncertainty to work itself out. The FCC has long had a reputation in Washington as an agency that moves too slowly, and our current Chairman, Julius Genachowski, and the hardworking staff at the Commission have made improvements on this front by reducing the agency’s backlog. But we need to do much more to fix the problem. As the pace of change in the industry accelerates, the costs and lost opportunities associated with delays at the FCC grow over time.
One positive step Pai put forward was centered around a piece of legislation now bordering on laughably outdated:
Today, the FCC operates under a Communications Act that was last substantially revised in 1996 — an Act that divides the communications marketplace into silos of technologies and services. But the convergence and competition have rendered this approach hopelessly outdated. Cable operators offer phone and Internet servies. Telecommunications carriers promote video service. Voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP) providers sell voice service and video conferencing.
Pai then outlined three principles that should guide the FCC moving forward:
• “The FCC should be as nimble as the industry we oversee”
• “The FCC should prioritize the removal of regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment”
• “The FCC should accelerate its efforts to allocate additional spectrum for mobile broadband”
Fleshing out that last principle, Pai offered his vision for allocating more spectrum:
In the coming months, I will be setting forth a comprehensive strategy for meeting our nation’s spectrum needs. Today, I want to offer three specific ideas that we could implement in the short-term to put us on the right path for meeting the targets established in the National Broadband Plan. First, by the end of September, the Commission should adopt service, technical, and licensing rules so that 40 MHz of AWS-4 spectrum can be used for terrestrial mobile broadband...Second, by the end of August, we should take action on pending petitions for reconsideration so that 4G LTE technology can be deployed in the so-called WCS, or Wireless Communications Services, band. Third, the Commission should kick-off the rule-making process for implementing incentive auctions this fall and set a deadline to conduct those auctions no later than June 30, 2014.
Wrapping up, Pai left the audience with hope on the horizon:
Although our nation has been going through tough times these last few years, I am confident that our economy will rebound strongly, and that the ICT sector can help lead the way. We see a glimpse of that future here in Pittsburgh. And if we pursue the right policies in Washington, DC, we can remove barriers to investment and innovation and unleash a wave of economic growth and job creation all across the country. Working together, I know we can make it happen.
All in all, Pai’s speech offered an impressive vision for the Commission moving forward. You can check it out for yourself here.
We’re launching a new feature here at IIA, highlighting innovators using broadband — both wired and wireless. This week’s startup is Audingo, an audio-visual social media platform that initiates interaction between public personalities, groups, and their fans via their mobile devices. From their website:
Audingo is a social platform that lets fans connect with and hear directly from their favorite personalties and organizations through a phone call, audio text, audio email, or video.
Audingo gives personalities the ability to create and record audio and video content in real time, and simultaneously connect to thousands of individuals’ mobile devices, fostering a conversation, deepening the connection..
The company recently received $3 million in angel investment to expand their operations. Check them out.
Ryan Kim of GigaOm reports that New York City has started to make the innovative shift from payphones to Wi-Fi hotspots:
The hotspots are initially coming to ten payphones in three of the boroughs and will be open to the public to access for free. You can see a list of sites here. Users just agree to the terms, visit the city’s tourism website and then they’re up and running. Currently, there are no ads on the service, but there could be in the future.
The effort is part of the city’s larger goal of providing more digital inclusion for residents. And it’s also aimed at helping figure out the future of the city’s payphones, which are a source of complaints from many residents because they attract crime or are just plain ugly.
Over at GigaOm, Om Malik poses an interesting question: Given the power of today’s smartphones — fueled by innovative tech and the power of mobile broadband — is it time to stop calling them phones all together? As Malik writes:
We spend about 11 minutes a day on email, 10.2 minutes on text messaging and when you total it all up, we stare at our smartphones for a whopping 128 minutes.
That’s a whole lot of a staring at a device we used to mainly use for talking.
Last week, Google announced a new 7-inch tablet called the Nexus 7. Now rumors are flying that Apple, which has so far dominated the growing tablet market — which, arguably, is the future of computing — is set to fire back with a smaller tablet of its own. As Peter Burrows and Adam Satariano of Bloomberg report:
A smaller, less expensive iPad could undercut the ambitions of Google, Microsoft and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) to gain traction in the advancing tablet market, said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. The new device will probably have a price closer to Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon’s Kindle Fire, both of which have 7-inch screens and cost $199.
“It would be the competitors’ worst nightmare,” Wu said in an interview. “The ball is in Apple’s court.”
“Mobile Network Design and Deployment: How Incumbent Operators Plan for Technology Upgrades and Related Spectrum Needs” is a paper released last week by engineer Peter Rysavy. In it, he examines the lengthy process wireless providers go through to locate new spectrum and put it to use:
Managing wireless networks is a complex process that must balance infrastructure investment with service revenues, capacity with demand, and that must optimally time the deployment of new technologies. Part of this balancing act is acquiring and deploying radio spectrum. Spectrum can neither be immediately acquired, nor can it be immediately deployed. Instead, operators have to phase it into their networks in conjunction with the right technology at the right time over periods that span many years. The fact that operators may have idle spectrum at specific points in time does not mean that they don’t need it, and it does not mean that they don’t intend to use it.
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a resolution — put forward by Rep. Bono Mack — that officially opposed Internet governance by international entities. Today, Senators Claire McCaskill and Marco Rubio put forward their own resolution. From McCaskill’s website:
Citing the potential impacts on internet freedom and on technology jobs in the U.S., McCaskill and Rubio are leading a Senate resolution to make clear that the United States opposes allowing any international body or foreign country to have jurisdiction over internet management or regulation. A strengthened version of the resolution was introduced today, with the backing of Senators John McCain (R-AZ), John Kerry (D-MA), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Non-profit, non-governmental entities currently regulate and oversee the Internet, keeping the global network out of reach of any one government or international body. However, recent proposals-including some by the governments of Russia, China, and Iran-would turn some of the most critical Internet functions over to the United Nations, which could negatively affect innovation and dramatically expand the power of foreign countries to limit or censor speech within their borders.
Earlier today, IIA hosted a teleconference on government regulations in the broadband ecosystem. Titled “The Role of Government in the Broadband Economy: Making Regulations Work,” the participants were Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute, Dr. Joseph P. Fuhr of the American Consumer Institute, and our own Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman.
You can download and listen to the conversation below. A full transcript is also available after the jump.
Last week, Microsoft announced Surface, its tablet competitor to Apple’s dominant iPad. This week, another tech giant is looking to make a splash with a device of its own. Via Luke Hopewell of Gizmodo:
As rumoured, Google’s going to announce a 7-inch, Nexus-branded tablet called the Nexus 7. According to the leak, it’s built by Asus, with a 1.3Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, GeForce 12-core GPU and 1GB of RAM with two different storage variants: 8GB and 16GB.
The Nexus tablet will also feature NFC and run Google Wallet (probably only in the US) and Android Beam.
According to Gizmodo, the device will start at just $199.
Our Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman has penned an opinion piece for The Hill on spectrum, innovation, and the role of government regulations. Here’s a taste:
The fact is that innovation is inherently unpredictable. But it’s also the best solution for consumers. With wireless markets so rapidly-changing – and with remedies to actual uncompetitive behavior far preferable to preemptive strikes against theoretical risks – policy makers would do best to act with humility in their own predictive powers and with faith in wireless markets’ proven resistance to capture.
It is nice to have a national broadband strategy and Presidential targets. But no amount of jawboning from the bully pulpit can take the place of private investment and market-based competition. Our nation does not need new laws and new regulations…we need more government spectrum dedicated to consumer use and fewer limitations on which wireless carriers can obtain additional spectrum and deploy more robust networks.
Apple’s iPad may currently rule the tablet roost, but as Read Write Web’s Antone Gonsalves reports, another heavyweight may soon be getting in on the game:
For years Microsoft has left it to hardware manufacturers to build the smartphones, tablets and PCs running its software. Not anymore. According to published reports, the company plans to unveil a tablet of its own in Los Angeles on Monday.
In what could prove to be a major step in closing America’s digital divide, President Obama is signing an Executive Order today aimed at making broadband deployment faster and easier. From the White House website:
The Executive Order (EO) will require the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs as well as the US Postal Service to offer carriers a single approach to leasing Federal assets for broadband deployment. The EO also requires that available Federal assets and the requirements for leasing be provided on departmental websites, and it will require public tracking of regional broadband deployment projects via the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard. In addition, the Executive Order will direct departments to help carriers time their broadband deployment activities to periods when streets are already under construction—an approach that can reduce network deployment costs along Federal roadways by up to 90 percent.
The EO also launches an effort being called “US Ignite,” which is aimed at connecting communities and campuses with 1 gigabit/second broadband in order to promote the public good. Again, from the Order:
This network will become a test-bed for designing and deploying next-generation applications to support national priorities areas such as education, healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing. US Ignite will challenge students, startups, and industry leaders to create a new generation of applications and services that meet the needs of local communities while creating a broad range of job and investment opportunities. This initiative will open up countless new opportunities for households and small businesses, helping them experience the economic and community benefits of next-gen applications while demonstrating a path for other communities to join.
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson laid out the problems his and other wireless companies face when it comes to the coming spectrum crunch:
The demand for mobile data is now roughly doubling every year. Smartphones use 30 times more data than the cellphones they replaced. Meanwhile, the supply of spectrum supporting mobile devices has remained the same since 2008.
That means we’re in a race against time. The demand for spectrum will exceed supply by 2013, according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates. If that happens, the speed of the mobile revolution will slow down. Prices, download times and consumer frustration will all increase. And at a societal level we risk jeopardizing the future of our nation’s vital mobile Internet infrastructure, which is generating jobs and investment on a scale well beyond the first Internet boom of the 1990s.
Stephenson went on to call for smart government policies when it comes to spectrum allocation, including requiring those who hold spectrum to actually use it, and creating a national model for deploying wireless infrastructure. He also warned readers what will happen if demand for airwaves continues to outpace supply:
Billions of dollars of investment in spectrum deployment will lead to tens of thousands of jobs. It will also multiply the many innovations and high-tech jobs we see today in the development of mobile Internet applications. But when the industry is unable to obtain and deploy spectrum efficiently, we miss the opportunity to create good jobs—and consumers pay the price.
In an important post for The Hill‘s Congress Blog, Axel Leblois, Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict), highlights how critical wireless devices like smartphones and tablets are for people with disabilities — and how it’s just as critical that more spectrum to be made available:
If we want to see further advancements in mobile accessibility technologies, we must continue to promote the development of a healthy mobile ecosystem. Encouraging continued private sector investment in wireless network infrastructure is vital and will require swift and decisive government action. Our government, which allocates the airwaves, must find more for commercial use. Such a move will allow wireless carriers to continue expanding and enhancing our wireless networks, ensuring a wireless infrastructure that will enable accessibility innovation to continue to aid Americans with disabilities. And by acting quickly to remove this barrier to growth, our government can enable faster development of these and other technological innovations.
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